The dominoes have started to fall as the trade deadline arrives this Friday.
The first two major trades occurred within the past few days with lefty Scott Kazmir traded from Oakland to Houston and Johnny Cueto being sent from Cincinnati to Kansas City. Both AL teams strengthened their starting pitching.
The big names mentioned most often to be in different uniforms by the time the calendar changes to August include starting pitchers Cole Hamels of Philadelphia and David Price of Detroit as well as closers Aroldis Chapman of Cincinnati and Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies.
Kansas City starts the week with a 7.5 game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central and almost a certainty to make the playoffs.
How will Cueto fare in going from the National to the American League? In 15 interleague starts since 2012 Cueto has a 2.31 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in nearly 100 innings with the Reds winning nine of those starts. This suggests Cueto may do quite well against the AL.
Houston starts this week in second place in the AL West but just one game behind the LA Angels. Both have 55 wins and meet for a three game series in Houston beginning Tuesday.
The New York Mets made a minor deal with Atlanta to strengthen its anemic offense, adding veterans Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe in exchange for a pair of modest prospects. Pittsburgh, St Louis and the Angels also added depth with some minor trades with Milwaukee, Miami and the Chicago White Sox, respectively.
If the playoffs were to begin based on the standings through Sunday the top NL seed would be St Louis. The Cardinals would face the winner of the Wild Card game between Pittsburgh and San Francisco in the NLDS. The second seeded L A Dodgers would face third seeded Washington.
The top AL seed, Kansas City, would face the winner of the Wild Card game between Minnesota and Houston. The second seeded New York Yankees would meet the third seeded LA Angels.
The strongest and weakest of baseball’s six divisions reside in the National League. And three of baseball’s six divisions are virtually even.
At 26 games above .500 (i.e. vs. teams outside the division) the NL Central rates as MLB’s strongest division. The weakest is the NL East, an astounding 39 games below .500. The second strongest division, at 14 games above .500, is the AL Central.
Interestingly, the AL West and NL West are winning exactly 50 percent of their games against non-Division foes. And the AL East is just 1 game below .500.
The above math would also tab the AL as the stronger of the two leagues. AL teams, collectively, are 13 games above .500 in interleague play this season.
This measure might be a better way to determine which league gets home field advantage in the World Series. With the AL having won this season’s All Star game the league with the better interleague record and the All Star game winner are the same — at least for this season.
Last week it was noted that the Philadelphia Phillies, with an MLB worst 32-62 record through the prior Sunday, also had been the costliest team at the betting windows this season despite usually being highly priced underdogs.
Through Sunday, July 12, at the All Star break, the Phillies had cost their backers 23.5 units for the season. In going 8-1 since the All Star break the Phillies wiped out nearly one half of the losses they accumulated over the first 91 games of the season! As underdogs in 8 of those 9 games, including 7 of the wins, the Phillies have won 11.4 units in this stretch to cut their season deficit to 12.1 units.
To quote the title of former player and longtime broadcaster Joe Garagiola’s 1960 book of anecdotes, “Baseball is a funny game.”
Keeping in mind the possibility that one or more of the following teams may have made a significant trade or two by the time these series start, here’s a look at three series this weekend.
Nationals at Mets: Both offenses have struggled. Washington’s has actually performed better on the road (4.7 runs per game) than at home (3.7 rpg). The Mets have been at the MLB average of 4.1 rpg at home while scoring just 2.9 rpg away from Citi Field. Only St Louis has a better home record than the Mets’ 34-16. Washington starts the week with a losing road record (24-26). Note than in 15 of his 19 starts Jacob deGrom has pitched at least 6 innings while allowing 2 earned runs or less, a feat accomplished by Scherzer in 15 of his 20 starts.
PLAYS: Nationals -120 or less, or as underdogs, in starts by Scherzer or Zimmermann not facing deGrom or Harvey; Mets -125 or less, or as underdogs, in starts by DeGrom or Harvey not opposing Scherzer or Zimmermann; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 6.5 or higher if DeGrom or Harvey are matched against Scherzer or Zimmermann.
Royals at Blue Jays:This four game series begins Thursday. KC took 2 of 3 hosting Toronto just before the All Star break. The UNDER was 2-1. The Blue Jays average an MLB best 5.6 runs per game at home. The Royals are above average in scoring 4.2 rpg on the road. The trade for Cueto gives KC the only true ‘ace’ starter on either staff. The Royals have a significant edge in the bullpen which was their major strength in last season’s run to the World Series.
PLAYS: Kansas City -125 or less, or as underdogs, in a start by Cueto against any Toronto starter; KC -120 or less, or as underdogs, in a start by Volquez not facing Buehrle; Toronto -140 or less in a start by Buehrle not facing Cueto or Volquez; Toronto -120 or less with any other starter not opposing Cueto or Volquez; OVER 8.5 or lower in starts not involving Buehrle, Cueto or Volquez.
Angels at Dodgers: The first of two Freeway Series this season. The Dodgers’ offense has been more productive at home than on the road (4.4 vs. 3.8 rpg) whereas the Angels have been better on the road than at home (4.7 vs. 4.0 rpg). Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have a combined 60 home runs. The Dodgers have a roster with more talented hitters overall but only semi-regular Justin Turner is batting above .300. Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson are tied with 21 homers.
PLAYS: Angels +150 or more with any starter against either Greinke or Kershaw; Angels as underdogs of any price against any other Dodgers starter; Dodgers -120 or less or as underdogs not facing Heaney, Richards or Santiago; UNDER 7.5 or less in any matchup; UNDER First 5 Innings totals of 3 or higher in starts by Greinke or Kershaw.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]